Saturday, November 9, 2013

Venture to the Interior

* * *


Going to sleep last night I told myself I'd head out to Pt. Reyes if I woke up real early, Mt. Tam if I slept until daylight. Waking up at 6 a.m. last Saturday, I'd still have been in the dark. Not so today. It's just as well. The point of going out to the national seashore was to look for subjects to photograph with the 4x5 view camera. I felt a little remiss in my efforts toward the Mt. Tam Blog, though, and didn't want to wait until next week to post my first November pictures. 

I'd planned to drive straight to the parking area and hike down to High Marsh, but the bright red California fuchsia still blooming on a hillside compelled me to stop. Most of the blossoms were happening right next to the road. In general I find it inadvisable to set up my tripod on the edge of a road, so I scurried up the nearest deer trail and found more blossoms half-way up the hill.



I swear I would not have stopped to photograph this tree for the millionth time, but how could I resist with such cool clouds poised right above them. Interesting clouds! A hopeful sign of changes in the weather. I tried to capture a similar scene with the 4x5, but I didn't have a wide enough lens. I will take note for the future, however. I like this vantage point.



On my way to High Marsh via Potrero Meadow's colorful azalea leaves, I checked the trail camera and swapped out the memory card but left the camera in place. I'd thought about taking it down to High Marsh but decided to hold off, which I'm glad I did.



This was the first time I'd hiked so far out Mt. Tam's wilder north side in a long time. I even consulted a trail map before I left home to make sure I knew which trails to use. As I hiked out through the lonely woods through a silence broken only by my footfalls, I felt I was on a "venture to the interior," which is the title of a book written by the late Laurens van der Post about hiking into central Africa. I even felt the title's double meaning -- a venture to a psychological interior as much as a physical one (Laurens was a good friend of Carl Jung's). It's just a little bit spooky, in a good way, to hike alone in territory where there's a chance, however slim, that you're not at the top of the food chain.

(The CBE after Van der Post's name on his letterhead, by the way, is for "Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire".)



It took about an hour to mosey down to High Marsh. I was surprised to see that it was completely dry. All the tule stalks were dry as bleached bones too. Ordinarily you could not reach this rock without getting your feet wet. I've seen countless dragonflies swooping and mating on the edges of this marsh in past years (in late September) when there was still plenty of water for them to complete their life cycles. Ditto for chorus frogs. One of the TV weather guys has been reporting that this is the driest calendar year on record (with records going back to the 1800s).



Every now and then I'll come across a crime scene in the woods. A bunch of feathers on the ground. The perp probably a Cooper's hawk or such like. The victim, I don't know. I thought maybe junco, but I couldn't find a match in my copy of Bird Tracks & Sign by Mark Elbroch. I thought that was the end of my search -- until I found an amazing online resource called The Feather Atlas, courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Maybe my feathers are Varied Thrush -- which might explain why they're always so darn jumpy.



I expected a "moire soiree" when I photographed these feathers with my D800E, which doesn't have the anti-aliasing filter that's supposed to prevent moire patterns. They came out fine.



Once the rains return (assuming they do!), I'll go back to this spot and take another picture. All that grass will be under several inches of crystal clear water.

I hiked back up to the Jeep in about 40 minutes, then drove out along Bolinas Ridge, where the sight and smell of smoke from the Cantwell Fire in Lake County was quite strong.

* * *

4 comments:

  1. I came across a "crime scene" today. It was a turkey vulture and had been there for a very long time. None of the bones were scattered about so I suspect "natural causes". The skull now resides on my dash next to that of a cat and a large rodent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great find, for it to be so intact. If you ever want to ID your skull, there are field guides for skulls and bones. My guide has life-size skull diagrams. You just put your skull over the one that matches and bingo.

      Delete
  2. Hi John -- "Sinbad's Dad" informed me of your blog the other day. I have just finished adding you to my sidebar so I (and others of course) can easily find you again. Great project on Tam! And good luck with that 4x5.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I appreciate it! The 4x5 is a beautiful beast.

      Delete